With everyone on board the ship they set sail from Mura Musume on the 1st day of month of the Horse. Making good time they arrived within sight of the Islands of Silk and Spice in only three days, arriving in the later afternoon of the 4th day of Horse. This quick journey was greatly due to the skills of the sailors of the Mantis and the workmanship of their ship which included port and aft wind angled sails and even a few rowers, things that no other clans in Rokugan could boast of in their own ships.
The port town they were traveling to was nestled into a large bay. Once entering they bay everyone came up to the top deck to see, for many of them, their first sight of the Mantis Islands. As they fast approached the town many of the group noticed a disturbance in the water on either side of this ship and Shinjo, with his keen eyes, was able to see what looked like giant serpents quickly rising out of the water. At once a pair of Orochi broke the surface of the waves on either side of the ship. Everyone started the motion of going for their weapons but quickly noticed that the Mantis sailors seemed unconcerned about the pair of serpents on either side of them. The group was quick to notice the reason as they saw a Mantis Shugenja riding each Orochi. Isawa Masanori told them that they were called Storm Riders and were the strong backbone of the Mantis Navy. The Mantis sailors said that it was a great honor to be escorted by the Storm Riders. Meanwhile the Mantis Shugenja in question had each cast a spell that transformed the wave that each was riding into the image of a giant mantis. Isawa was unimpressed and pondered out loud if he should burn the wave from beneath them and drop them back into the ocean. The group said this would probably not be a good idea although Shinjo did looked a little interested in seeing such a spectacle. As they came closer to the town the pair of Storm Riders sank back into the ocean and allowed their demonstration to subside.
The group was eager to get back onto solid land and as soon as the ship, quite expertly by the Mantis sailors, was docked they unloaded the caravan and their steeds. Isawa told them that they had the afternoon to themselves and that he would make the usual arrangements at the inn. He cautioned them not to create the same scene as they had last time since he had less influence here then he did in the Crane lands. Hida asked what if trouble found them and was given the simple reply that in that case he would be extremely unlucky. The group conversed for a bit and decided to go store their gear at the inn before exploring the town.
As they made their way thru the town they heard someone calling Kakita Hikaru’s name. When they turned they were surprised to see Daidoji Shun trotting up to them. He bid them all greetings and said it was pleasant to see them again. When asked what he was doing there he reminded them that he had told them he would be serving as a yojimbo for a Doji diplomat for a trade conference between the Mantis and the Crane when they had passed thru Kosaten Shiro. He told them that his charge was currently “relaxing and relieving his stress” from the journey. Since he knew they were traveling to Kyuden Gotei he was wondering if he could join them on the way. Since the decision was up to Isawa they continued on to the inn. Upon arrival they stored their gear and asked Isawa about the plan. He had no issue with it but reminded Shun that they would be leaving early if his charge and he wanted to accompany the caravan. Now that their gear was stored and agreements for the following day were reached they decided to explore the town.
While walking thru the town Daidoji Shun explained a bit about the conference. One of the main reasons was to establish an agreement to hunter pirates that attacked both the Mantis and Crane ships. He had heard about the attack on their ship when they left Kyuden Daidoji and hopefully this agreement would help prevent such future incidents. Shosuro then excused herself from the group to go looking for some things, something that did not surprise the rest of her companions as they were becoming accustomed to her running off by herself. Shinjo noticed an absence of Unicorn trade shops in the town and thought of selling off some of his excess sugar but realized he did not have access to a heimen trustworthy enough to handle the transaction for him.
While working thru the main town square everyone sensed Kakita Hikaru go rigid, entering a fighting stance and almost reach for her katana. They looked across the square to where she was looking to see a Mantis bushi with two kamas drawn stalking towards them accompanied by two bewared looking companions. Before approaching too close he sheathed his weapons and strode up to the group as Kakita Hikaru moved in front of her companions. Daidoji Shun moved into a rear right position looking warily at the newcomers while Hida used his size to look over the smaller Kakita and stare menacingly at the trio with Akodo standing next to him trying to figure out what was going on. Shinjo on the other hand moved backwards into the crowd and kept his hand close to his bow ready to defend his companions from any threat.
The Mantis looked the companions over and bowed shallowly to them in greeting. With that the following conversation ensured:
Mantis (sarcasticly): Welcome to the Islands of Silk and He sarcasticly welcomed them to the Islands of Silk and Spice. To what do we owe the pleasure of having such interesting visitors?
Kakita: I am Kakita Hikaru. My companions and I are traveling with the Phoenix shugenja Isawa Masanori gathering scrolls for the Setsuban festival. Who might you be?
Hiroto: My name is Hiroto. I had heard a phoenix was arriving. So why was such a young group of samurais elected for this great honor.
Kakita Hikaru: We were chosen for the Topaz Championship and impressed Isawa Masanori with our performance. It is sad that I did not see any Mantis at the competition.
Hiroto: That is because the Great Clans fear what we are capable of.
Kakita: Oh, I was always under the impression that only the most capable were invited. There was a ronin there this year who did quite well. Interesting that a ronin got a sponsorship when the Mantis did not.
Hiroto: Ahh I notice you have a quick and talented tongue. Did that mouth of yours help you win the competition?
Akodo: I notice you putting away your kamas when approaching. Do they grow wheat around here?
Hiroto: Kama are good for cutting more gold colored things then just wheat.
Akodo: You sound like you have experience in such matters.
Hiroto: It is sometimes necessary for the defenders of Rokugan to protect the Empire from the arrogance that could bring it down.
Akodo: It must be hard to defend from such a small and distant island.
Hiroto: Of course it is easier to defend the Emperor from the heart of the Empire.
Kakita: Such a pretty sailor outfit you have there.
With that last comment the patience and tolerance of the young Mantis broke and he stormed off without even giving a bow in departure. His two companions looked between the group and their departing friend gave a hasty bow to everyone and then quickly hurried after their Yoritomo Hiroto. Once the trio was out of sight the group relaxed. When asked what that was all about Kakita answered she was unsure but it was probably just some insolent Mantis trying to make a name for himself.
As they made their way back to the inn Daidoji Shun asked Kakita if she had chosen a personal mon. Kakita answered that she had not and was curious what had prompted the question. He silently indicated the design on the back of her kimono. Understanding now she informed him the story behind the kimono and how it was specially made by the owner of the Bladed Fish Kimonos. As they walked into the inn Shosuro came out of shadows and followed close behind them asking about their day. Hida answered that just the usual and that there was danger everywhere. Daidoji Shun excused himself from the group and said he would see them in the morning.
That next morning the two groups met early at the south west exit from the little port town. Daidoji Shun and his charge were grateful to be allowed to accompany them and provided pleasant conversation on the trip. They made good time but as night approached Isawa instructed them to find a place to camp since it seemed that the Mantis did not have waystations like the main roads of the mainland did. The Crane did not seemed pleased by this concept but the camp was quickly set up and food being prepared by the campfire everyone settled in.
Shosuro convinced everyone that the best way to spend a night out camping was to tell horror stories. She started with the story of a priest who was walking alone late one night and fell asleep on the steps of a shrine. While asleep he had a lovely dream of a beautiful woman seducing him and spending the night with him. He woke up with his kimono open to discover a snake had though his member was prey and had choked to death trying to swallow it. Everyone seemed a bit shocked by the story and few people laughed. The Tortoise excused themselves so not to embarrass themselves with their response although Hida simply exclaimed “ Aha dangly parts ” and slapped his leg which allowed everyone to finally laugh although it seemed Kakita Hikaru was still embarrassed by the whole thing.
Akodo told the next story involving a Pennaggolan that had the head of a cow instead of the head of a human. The absurdity of such a tale amused and terrified everyone around. A few people noticed that there was a bunch of bats watching them at this point but no one thought much about it.
Finally Hida told a tale of a young man killing an older man he was supposed to take care of because of his evil eye. The young man then chopped the older man into bits and hid the parts beneath the tatami mats. Soon after some magistrates arrived to investigate the last cry of the older man. The younger man invited them in, served them tea and engaged in pleasant conversation with them. But he kept hearing a strange thumping noise. Finally, as the sound grew louder and louder, ripped up the mats to see the evil eye of the old man staring back at him as the heart slowly beated.
Wit this last story the group decided to fall asleep. The next few days passed without incident and they arrived at Kyuden Gotei on the 7th day of the Month of the Horse. As they made their way towards Kyuden Gotei several of them noticed a strange man on one of the most upper balconies. Those with keener eyes noticed that this man was obviously not person from Rokugan but instead was clearly a gajin!